New Books in the Arts & Sciences:
Celebrating Recent Work by Sarah Cole
Inventing Tomorrow: H. G. Wells and the Twentieth Century
By: Sarah Cole
H. G. Wells played a central role in defining the intellectual, political, and literary character of the twentieth century. A prolific literary innovator, he coined such concepts as “time machine,” “war of the worlds,” and “atomic bomb,” exerting vast influence on popular ideas of time and futurity, progress and decline, and humanity’s place in the universe. Wells was a public intellectual with a worldwide readership. He met with world leaders, including Roosevelt, Lenin, Stalin, and Churchill, and his books were international best-sellers. Yet critics and scholars have largely forgotten his accomplishments or relegated them to genre fiction, overlooking their breadth and diversity.
In Inventing Tomorrow, Sarah Cole provides a definitive account of Wells’s work and ideas. She contends that Wells casts new light on modernism and its values: on topics from warfare to science to time, his work resonates both thematically and aesthetically with some of the most ambitious modernists. At the same time, unlike many modernists, Wells believed that literature had a pressing place in public life, and his works reached a wide range of readers. While recognizing Wells’s limitations, Cole offers a new account of his distinctive style as well as his interventions into social and political thought. She illuminates how Wells embodies twentieth-century literature at its most expansive and engaged. An ambitious rethinking of Wells as both writer and thinker, Inventing Tomorrow suggests that he offers a timely model for literature’s moral responsibility to imagine a better global future.
About the Author:
Sarah Cole, Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Dean of Humanities, specializes in British literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, with an emphasis on the modernist period. Areas of interest include war; violence, sexuality and the body; history and memory; imperialism; and Irish literature of the modernist period. She is the author of two books, most recently At the Violet Hour: Modernism and Violence in England and Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 2003). She has published articles in ELH, Modern Fiction Studies, Modernism/Modernity, and PMLA, and has written essays for a variety of edited collections. Sarah Cole is the recipient of a 2014 Guggeinheim Fellowship for a book project entitled "The Wells Era."
About the Speakers:
Jed Esty is Vartan Gregorian Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Unseasonable Youth: Modernism, Colonialism, and the Fiction of Development (Oxford, 2012) and A Shrinking Island: Modernism and National Culture in England (Princeton, 2004), among other published works.
Victor LaValle’s most recent novel is The Changeling, named one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 by Time Magazine and USA Today and a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and more. His other works include Slapboxing with Jesus, The Ecstatic, Big Machine and The Devil in Silver. He is also Associate Professor of Writing at Columbia University School of the Arts.
Sharon Marcus teaches at Columbia University, where she is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature. She is the author of Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London (University of California Press, 1999); Between Women: Marriage, Desire, and Friendship in Victorian England (Princeton University Press, 2007); and The Drama of Celebrity (Princeton University Press, 2019). Her articles include “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: Towards a Theory and Practice of Rape Prevention” (1992), and the widely-cited “Surface Reading,” co-authored with Stephen Best (2009).
Alan Stewart is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His book publications include Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England (1997); Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon 1561-1626 (with Lisa Jardine, 1998); Philip Sidney: A Double Life (2000); The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I (2003); Letterwriting in Renaissance England (with Heather Wolfe, 2004) and Shakespeare's Letters (2008). From January 2018, he is Chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature as well.
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